Gonzalez, Braves enter offseason with uncertainty
Manager will meet with interim GM Hart on Wednesday
ATLANTA -- There was a different feeling in the air as manager Fredi Gonzalez and a handful of his players came to Turner Field to gather their belongings on Monday morning. For the first time in five years, the Braves experienced the day after the season ended without dealing with the sadness they had felt the previous day.
For the first time since 2009, the Braves bid adieu to a season without a loss that either eliminated them from the postseason or denied them entry into it. Consequently, they avoided the painful shock that had hit them the previous few years. Instead, they exited this season dealing with the uncertainty created by the wonder of which players and coaching staff members might return next year.
Though Gonzalez has repeatedly said he understands that the nature of the business could cost him or at least some of his coaches a job, he seemed at ease on Monday. He will learn his fate and that of his coaches after he meets with interim general manager John Hart on Wednesday.
"I feel more for the coaches than I do for myself," Gonzalez said. "I think the meeting on Wednesday will clear some stuff up."
The Braves have said they will not make a decision about Gonzalez's future until they decide who will serve as their full-time general manager. Hart could assume this role if he wishes, but it still seems like he would rather keep the interim tag and simply continue serving in more of a senior advisory role.
But even with the GM search still ongoing, there seems to be a sense that Gonzalez will return to manage the Braves for a fifth straight season. Bobby Cox, who appears prepared to begin being more active in his advisory role with the Braves, has given his vote of confidence for Gonzalez.
Still, even if the Braves do not make a change at manager, they are expected to alter Gonzalez's coaching staff. Hitting coaches Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher appear to be sitting on the hottest seats. But there is also reason to wonder about the future of bench coach Carlos Tosca, who has long had a close bond with Gonzalez.
"It's so easy to blame the coaches in any sport and we understand that is what we signed up for," Gonzalez said. "I don't have any idea. Would I like to keep my staff completely? Absolutely. Is that going to happen? I'll call you as soon as I get out of the meeting."
Unfortunately, there will likely be at least some coaching casualties with the Braves completing their third losing season since 1990. The club started the season 17-7 and despite splitting their next 74 games, they were in sole possession of first place in the National League East as late as July 18.
But an offense that proved to be the club's weak spot throughout the season staggered more frequently during the second half and the Braves ended up losing 39 of their final 64 games. The club was officially eliminated while winning four of September's first 20 games.
"This month of September, we didn't collectively produce offensively," Gonzalez said. "I think our pitching was good all year."
Despite losing Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen to season-ending elbow injuries during Spring Training, the Braves still led the Majors with 110 quality starts -- a mark that ranked second in franchise history, behind only the heralded 1997 rotation that featured Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.
But the consistent efforts provided by the pitching staff went unrewarded as the Braves' offense ranked second-to-last in the Majors with 3.54 runs per game -- a mark that ranked as the third-lowest mark in Atlanta history (since 1966).
While there might be a lot of theories about why the offense struggled, there is no denying that this was a group built for power that prove powerless far too often. One year after leading the National League with 181 home runs, the Braves hit 123 -- the lowest mark for the franchise since the 1988 club went deep just 96 times.
"Offensively, we just didn't do the same things we did last year," Gonzalez said. "We didn't score runs and we didn't hit home runs."